You’ve likely already heard, but Kanye West is planning to run for president. While our brains can’t quite comprehend what a West presidency would look like, a recent interview with the man himself provided some insight. One surprising area he touched on was the NBA. So what exactly would West’s plan for basketball be if he won the election in November?
Kanye West’s plan for the NBA
In a wide-ranging interview with Forbes, West clarified his intention to run for president of the United States in 2020. He spelled out many of the ideas for his presidency. He also had thoughts on what he’d do with the NBA if he were the commander in chief:
“When I become president — let me make some promises — the NBA will open all the way back up from Nigeria to Nanchang and the world will see the greatest athletes play. The world will experience the change in their element. The money is gonna come back.”
Aside from the fact that the president doesn’t hold many jurisdictions over NBA activities, the question West raises is an interesting one. Is the NBA able to support a global expansion?
The NBA’s global expansion
Outside of the Toronto Raptors (and, formerly, the Vancouver Grizzlies), no NBA teams play outside the contiguous 48 states. That said, the league as a product is massively popular around the world. It’s impossible to say when the NBA’s popularity overseas began. But a decent starting point would be the 1992 Olympic Games.
There, USA Basketball allowed professional athletes to participate for the first time. The NBA sent its “Dream Team” of all-time greats like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and more. They trounced the rest of the competition on their way to the gold medal, thrilling fans worldwide.
From there, the NBA has seen its profile grow exponentially on a global scale. They’ve played exhibition games in foreign markets in front of thousands of fans. They’ve welcomed international stars like Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, Pau Gasol and Luka Doncic who have led legions of their countrymen to become interested in the sport.
Simply put, there’s never been more interest in the NBA all over the world. But does that mean the league can support more teams worldwide?
Would international NBA teams work?
There are a number of reasons why international expansion, at least at the moment, wouldn’t be feasible in the NBA. Those reasons include:
- Travel and scheduling would be problematic. Right now, teams rarely even play games on opposite coasts, much less overseas. Putting an NBA team in London, Beijing, or Paris would be a logistical nightmare for NBA schedule makers.
- The talent pool would be further diluted. Adding more NBA teams means including the pool of players in the league. That means more players who wouldn’t have been in the league before will have an opportunity to play. Adding one or two teams wouldn’t be much of a problem. Any more than that, and you may begin to see a dropoff in quality of play.
- It’s unclear how many international cities could support a team. There are certainly major metropolitan cities worldwide that are big enough to support a team. But how many could consistently fill an arena? Sure, the Lakers would draw anywhere in the world with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But would the Timberwolves? Or the Kings? Attendance may be an issue over the long haul.
If West does win the presidency, he may want to address multiple other issues before getting to this one. The NBA expanding overseas seems little more than a pipe dream at the moment, even if the league is considering it.